“What if they don’t like me?”
She shifted around on the plastic blue booth seat, then fidgeted with her fork.
“I bought a really cute skirt for tomorrow. It’s cheerful.”
“Great idea. You will brighten up the room when you walk in.”
She slumped a little. But we weren’t here to discuss posture.
“I got so much stuff. I spent a lot of money. What if I forgot the one super important thing that I don’t know I needed?”
“You’ll be fine.” I scooped up bean dip with a fat tortilla chip and managed to get the whole thing into my mouth at once, rendering it useless but happy. “You were at this school last year,” I mumbled, “‘t’s not your first rodeo.”
“There’s gonna be a weird kid in the class, I know it. That one kid that waits until we’re all doing silent reading and then tips over his chair or starts tapping the desk or needs to go the bathroom a million times. Last year, kids kept moving things from my desk and it made me crazy.”
“Oh come on, it won’t be that bad. You will all get along great once you show up.”
“I can never sleep the night before the first day of school. I’ll have a headache. What if the alarm clock doesn’t go off and I’m late?”
“This happens every year. It’s just the jitters. You’ll love your class.”
Plates of fajitas, tacos, and a beautiful margarita arrived. Busy silence ensued because we have our priorities straight.
Then she took a long drink of lemon water and looked me in the eyes.
“Girl, you’re bringing up Common Core? I graduated as I recall. But I told you so. Well. I told America so. Or something like that, because if we would just stop doing a “new math” every five years and agree on one, single way of learning long division, we would all be rocket scientists by now.”
“I’m not sure anyone is learning anything. Every year there’s a new thing waiting for us and it’s nothing but tests and rushing and watching the clock until I get to go home.”
“You don’t have to tell me; you’ll be tested every five minutes! No crying.”
I looked at her for a beat, “And no cussing.”
“Okay fine, what about PE? Lunch? Do they even attempt music or art?”
“We might. I don’t suppose you want to come in and volunteer to teach it?”
We both got a little crazy in the eyes for a minute.
“Nope. Nopity nope. Like I said, I graduated. Everybody graduates sooner or later and there’s no going back.”
“Rub it in,” she frowned, “I only have…” She thought for a minute. I hoped she wasn’t using Common Core to figure it out. “…about a million more years to go.”
Stupid math. I took a drink.
She was shredding her napkin into tiny little confetti bits. “Even lunch is dumb. We used to always line up at the door in two lines. Boys and Girls. Last year we lined up in colors. Red and Blue. This year we’ll probably line up by attitudes: Good Kids and Tornadoes.”
“Take a few deep breaths. Smile. Introduce yourself. All the teachers and kids will love you.”
The bill was paid and we gathered our things to leave. I gave her a reassuring hug.
“You are the most organized, energetic, friendly person I know. You’re going to rock tomorrow. You are the Teacher. And you are changing the world.”